A Rock Star in El Paso

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Last Friday Trump tweeted sarcastically about a burglary at the home of Congressman Elijah Cummings in Baltimore.  “Really bad news,” and “too bad,” were his words, and pundits thought that the president couldn’t go any lower but during the course of this week he proved them wrong.  In an eight-month period Trump had mentioned an ‘invasion’ of illegal immigrants on the southern border at least 21 times during public appearances, no less than 7 times at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, in May.  “What to do about it?” he asked the crowd, and someone yelled ‘shoot them,’ which made Trump smile and crack a joke.  Saturday night a white supremacist took a cue from the president’s rhetoric and drove 10 hours to El Paso to kill Mexicans, after posting a ‘manifesto’ on an extremist website parroting Trump’s words.  In a Walmart store he killed 22 people and injured 24 others before being arrested.  That massacre was followed by another shooting early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, where 9 mostly black people lost their lives.  There was no clear political motive for the second shooting, but the country was in shock so the president had to act.

In a teleprompter speech on Monday morning that he read like a zombie under anesthesia Trump addressed the situation.  The speech was written by Stephen Miller, who had an easy time with it because he only had to write down everything that’s opposite to his convictions.  The president said “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside, so destructive, and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love.” As causes for the violence in El Paso he mentioned video games, the Internet, the media and mental illness.  Omitted were the availability of assault weapons and his own xenophobic rants.  Trump didn’t stay in that conciliatory mood for long, because first he criticized the New York Times for having changed a dubious headline about his speech, presenting himself once again as a victim, and then he angrily attacked Beto O’Rourke, who used to represent El Paso in Congress and blamed the president for the shooting, with a tweet mocking O’Rourke’s Hispanic nickname and telling him to ‘be quiet.’ Before he traveled to Dayton and El Paso on Wednesday morning Trump declared on the South Lawn “my words bring people together.”

The president was going to meet with victims, their families, first responders and caregivers, to offer his condolences and support, so what could possibly go wrong?  In Dayton apparently all went well, at least according to Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who told the press that Trump had ‘done the right things’ and that the victims were glad that he came.  Inexplicably though, during his flight from Dayton to El Paso Trump tweeted that Senator Brown and Mayor Whaley had ‘totally misrepresented what took place inside of the hospital.’

In El Paso a large group of residents voiced their opinion that Trump shouldn’t have come, and as a result the president only huddled with Republican politicians and stayed out of sight.  After his visit to a local hospital he told the press pool that was not allowed to accompany him “everybody loves me here,” and his Director of Social Media and former golf caddie tweeted that Trump had been treated like a rock star.  However, the Washington Post reported that none of the victims had agreed to meet him.

Soon after the president’s visits it became clear why press and photographers had not been allowed in the hospitals when the White House started circulating videos of Trump surrounded by first responders and elated supporters.  It was unclear if he had paid most of them to be there, like he did when he announced his candidacy, or if his staff had been able to corral every Trumper in El Paso into the hospital.

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